My Life In Darkness, part five
5. Journey Into Darkness
When I got back from lunch I saw that several boxes of books had arrived so I had to unpack, price, and then shelve them all. Every time I heard the door open I would quickly look in case it was Astrid, but there was still no sign of her. The ache in my neck gradually got more painful as the day went on. I was also beginning to feel slightly feverish. The afternoon dragged on. On Fridays Helen liked keeping the store open longer and I usually had to work till at least six pm, sometimes later. When six o’clock finally rolled around I couldn’t wait to leave and though I was ill Helen didn’t let me go until around seven. I thought I would go home, lie down, and relax to some music. I grabbed my bag and got ready to leave. Helen came up to me.
“You get plenty of rest this weekend; I’d hate to see you get sick. So don’t go out dancing with your friends or anything.” She said to me in her parental voice. She seriously had no conception of what my life was actually like.
I walked out the door and prepared myself for the walk home. I only got a few feet when I heard a car horn honking. There was Astrid’s Porsche only a few feet away from the shop. Astrid got out wearing sunglasses and smiling at me. She seemed to be radiant, almost glowing. I smiled back and walked up to her car, my heart racing again.
“Hi there!” she said. “I was going to come earlier but something came up. Do you want to go for a drive?”
“Sure, though I should probably get home soon. I haven’t been feeling well all day.” I replied. She looked concerned.
“That’s no good. Get in and I’ll take a look at you.” I smiled when she said that and got in to her car.
“So you’re a doctor as well?” I asked.
“No, but I know a few things.” She looked closely at me with a look of concern. “You don’t look that good.” She put her hand to my forehead. Her cold touch felt nice on my warm skin.
“I think I have a temperature and my neck really hurts.” I said.
“You are a bit warm.” Her cool fingers then explored my neck, touching the area where it hurt. Again her touch felt good when she touched the area. “Is this area stinging?”
“Yes. It has been all day.”
“It’s no problem. I’ve got something that should help.” She started rummaging around in her glove box and produced a metallic canister. She unscrewed it and poured a red liquid into the top which seemed to double as a shot glass. “Drink this.” She said.
“What is it?” I looked doubtful at it.
“It’s a medicinal tonic, of sorts. It’ll put some colour in your cheeks, I promise you.” She stared at me expectantly. I slowly took the canister top from her hands. I stared down at it and thought well here goes nothing. I knocked it back in one go. It had a very weird taste that almost made me retch. There seemed to be some alcohol in it, but there was another unknown flavour that I found distasteful.
“Make sure you keep it down yeh?” she said smiling at me.
“That was so awful.” I said still sorting out the mixture of flavours in my mouth.
“Well that’s medicine for you.” She started the car up. “And now we go for a drive.” We took off down the street.
“I’ve got the next two days off so I guess I can go for a little adventure.” I said.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Off into the country. We’ll know when we get there.” She replied enigmatically.
It had been a warm day and the evening seemed like it was going to be warm as well. On the horizon to the west I noticed there were dark clouds forming.
“So you said that you had kept mostly to yourself once you returned to Lawrence. That implies that you have maybe had an encounter while living here.” Astrid stated.
“Well yeah.” I replied surprised she had noticed that. “There’s a girl called Jess who I used to be at school with. One night I went to the bar she sometimes frequents and we shot pool all evening. The next thing I knew I was back at her place and she was going down on me. I stayed the night with her and then in the morning we went out for breakfast. After that I called and texted her but she never responded, she just ghosted me, which was disappointing at the time.” I told her.
“That’s a shame. Do you know why she never responded?”
“Well I can guess. When we were at school she had a girlfriend called Cindy. The two of them were inseparable. Like me, Cindy went off to live in the city after school finished and Jess is still madly in love with her and is always waiting for her to return. I guess she was feeling a bit lonely the night I was with her. I don’t think she would ever seriously date me.”
“Why not?” Astrid asked.
“Because Jess and Cindy weren’t really ever friends of mine. They were the only other lesbians I knew of growing up and they knew which way I swung, but they were never interested in talking to me or being friends. I was never part of their social circle.”
“Too bad. They missed getting to know an interesting person.” Astrid said as she smiled at me and gently stroking my hair. I smiled shyly back at her. “I can have a few words with Jess about how she hurt your feelings if you want.” I was quite surprised by her offer.
“Um, no that’s okay. I’m way over it now. But thanks for the offer.” I responded. Astrid looked at me seriously.
“Fine. But if you ever change your mind let me know.” She stated.
“Okay I will.” I replied. “I guess Cindy’s doing better in the city than I ever did.”
“Don’t ever compare your life with others. Everyone’s path through life is at their own pace.”
“Okay.” I answered not expecting that from her.
“Are you hungry? There’s a place that serves good food here. Or so I’m told.” She said. Once she mentioned food I noticed I was ravenous.
“Yeah that would be great.” I answered.
We had been traveling for over an hour now. The sun had set and it was beginning to darken. We had come to what looked to be a bar in a small town. There was a car park which already had a few cars there. The bar was a wooden building that had been painted white and had a few bushes growing around it. There was glowing sign in the window “BURGERS AND BEER”. How original, I thought. The car came to a stop. Astrid put her hand again on my forehead.
“See all is well!” she proclaimed. I had to admit I was feeling a lot better. My temperature had gone down and the stinging in my neck had disappeared. I also felt I had a lot more energy. When we got out of the car my vision was a lot sharper even though it was dark now, and I thought I could hear sounds with a lot more clarity. Maybe it was the effect of feeling feverish and unwell all day and suddenly feeling better, I reasoned. Or maybe it was due to what Astrid had given me. I hated to think what it was.
Next episode: The Bar
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